Contemplating Christmas

Traditional ChristmasMom’s surgery went about as expected, which is to say that some things have improved, but others have not. We progress with her health at a snail’s pace …a very confused snail, one that keeps doubling back on itself. That, and the fact I presently have an aunt in ICU for other serious health issues, is casting a bit of a pall over the holidays. Ah well. Life is like that sometimes. Besides, I have two amazing, adorable, awesome nieces that always lift my spirits. I can’t wait to see them on Christmas day!

When I was a kid there was a set formula for the holidays. We had traditions – the family getting together in the formal living room and assembling the artificial tree. Dad spending hours untangling the strands of Christmas lights and tracking down faulty bulbs. Opening one special game or toy (or as we got older – movie) on Christmas Eve that could keep us entertained until it was bedtime. We had special ornaments, a special breakfast, a certain way we put up the stockings… countless traditions, big and small. Of course, as we grew up, things started to change.

We tried to keep things the same as they were for many years. Even though we were both out of the house, my sister and I would come back on Christmas Eve and spend the night so we could reenact our childhood the following day. But then, my Dad got cancer. That pretty much changed everything. I vividly remember that Christmas. My sister and I had come home Christmas Eve as usual, but that year everything was off. She and my mother both got the stomach flu and ended up sick in bed. They spent most of Christmas Eve and day huddled together, puking. My Dad, weak, pale coughing, was wrapped in several blankets and spent the day dozing in his Lazy Boy. We called the extended family and warned them to stay away. We didn’t even bother opening presents until 5:00 or 6:00 that night, when my sister and Mom were finally able to sit up for awhile. Me? I was fine. I spent the day in my pjs watching movies and hanging out with my Dad when he was awake. It turned out to be our last Christmas together.

Since then, things have changed even more. Years have passed. My sister and I each got married. I got divorced. She had children. The family is radically different, and we’ve had in-laws and other parties to arrange schedules around. It all worked out, it always does, but a lot of traditions have gone out the window. Honestly, I am not sure that that is such a bad thing. Sure, I miss some things, and I desperately wish my Dad could see his grandchildren, especially at Christmas, but it is what it is. We place such high expectations on this holiday, but Christmases don’t have to be perfect. Joy can be found in all sorts of things – having a few quiet moments alone Christmas morning to sit by my own tree and drink hot chocolate, watching my niece ripping the Christmas tissue into ever smaller pieces instead of playing with her new toys, getting text messages from friends all throughout Christmas day wishing holiday cheer.

This year is still up in the air. All I know, at this point, is that we are having it at my sister’s house. (With two small children it is much easier for us to come to her.) I don’t know what time we are getting together, I don’t know what we’ll be eating – or even what I need to bring. I don’t even know for sure if my Mom will make it. I assume she will, but I try not to have too many expectations when it comes to her right now. I’m going into this holiday blind, and that is okay. However things turn out, whatever happens, I’ll be okay, and I, like many others this time of year, will find my holiday spirit wherever I can.

 

Photo credit: luckyfish

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